High Roller nearly laid low

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The Independent Online
Back at Ascot two weeks after his magnificent seven, Frankie Dettori was once more the centre of attention, but only before racing started. A queue of adoring fans snaked for an hour round the winners' enclosure as their hero signed 410 racecards (and raised over pounds 2,000 for the Injured Jockeys Fund in the process) but a mere fourth place in the first race on Catwalk meant there was to be no repeat of his ride into the record books, and the focus shifted elsewhere.

The opener, the Autumn Stakes over a mile for two-year-olds, has thrown up some smart performers in the past - Nashwan in 1988 being one notable example - and yesterday's renewal was viewed by backers as a formality for the Henry Cecil-trained High Roller, among the market leaders for next year's Derby. The son of Generous did land the odds in the end, but it was only by the narrowest of margins, in the last stride catching Barnum Sands, who slipped his field in the straight.

High Roller, rather gawky in his action on the rain-softened ground, will have learned much about racing from the experience - Pat Eddery, in the saddle, was determined but not severe - and he is likely to appear next in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster. Cecil said: "He was given a lot to do, but did it. This is a nice horse, make no mistake."

Easycall is another juvenile who will surely make his mark at three, but in the sprinting division. His trainer Brian Meehan took the jockey Michael Tebbutt's advice in giving the tough Forzando colt one more run after his sixth place in the Middle Park Stakes nine days previously, and saw it well heeded as Easycall, giving weight all round in the Group Three contest but back at the minimum trip of five furlongs in the Cornwallis Stakes, made it five from seven with a cosy length and a half defeat of the Irish raider Check The Band.

High Roller's victory narrowed the gap between Cecil and his arch-rival Saeed Bin Suroor at the top of the trainers' championship table to a shade over pounds 25,000. The title is likely to be decided at Newmarket this week with the running of the Dewhurst and Champion Stakes.

Behind them two other Newmarket handlers, John Gosden and Michael Stoute, are scrapping for third spot, and Time Allowed's game whisker defeat of Spout in the Princess Royal Stakes took the master of Freemason Lodge over the million mark for the season and past his Stanley House neighbour.

Stoute was delighted for Time Allowed, runner-up in her previous four races, who led until headed by Spout inside the final furlong, but fought back with the utmost courage under John Reid to wrest back the Group Three prize from her much bigger rival. "She deserved that," said her trainer. "John was inspired on her. I hope she stays in training."

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